Ryan Tumilty, National Post, Published May 08, 2023
OTTAWA — Executives from Meta, owners of Facebook and Instagram, said they are working on plans to remove news content from their pages if Parliament passes legislation requiring them to pay news publishers.

The House of Commons Standing committee on Heritage had asked for Nicholas Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs, and a former U.K. deputy prime minister, but Clegg failed to show up on Monday after initially pledging to appear.

Kevin Chan, Meta’s global policy director, said Clegg decided not to appear because of the title of the committee: Tech giants’ current and ongoing use of intimidation and subversion tactics to evade regulation in Canada and across the world.

The online news act, Bill C-18, passed through the House of Commons and is currently in the Senate. It would require Facebook and Google to negotiate deals with news publishers to compensate publishers for content.

Chan read a statement on Clegg’s behalf opposing the online news act, arguing that Meta shouldn’t be forced to subsidize publishers who post links on their page.

“We’ve taken the difficult decision that if this flawed legislation is passed we will have to end the availability of news content on Facebook and Instagram in Canada,” Clegg wrote. “Asking a social media company in 2023 to subsidize news publishers for content that isn’t that important to our users is like asking email providers to pay the postal service for people because people don’t send letters anymore.”

Similar legislation to C-18 passed in Australia in 2021, requiring tech firms to pay publishers. Meta removed news content in response to the Australian law, before ultimately coming to an agreement with the government.

When removing news content in Australia however, the company took down emergency notices from government agencies and other vital information.

Rachel Curran, Meta’s head of public policy in Canada, said they aim to do better if they are forced to remove content in Canada.

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